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Young carers day: health and wellbeing

January 30 2020

Being a young carer comes with its difficulties. When you are caring for someone else it’s easy to forget to take proper care of yourself.

A young carer is someone under eighteen years old who helps look after a relative (whether it’s a parent or sibling) with a disability, illness, mental health condition, or drug or alcohol problem.

Thousands of young people a day are taking care of someone by cooking, cleaning, providing physical help including helping someone get dressed, as well as giving emotional support.

If you are a young carer, here are a few ways to make sure you are taking care of your mental and physical health:

Find help, take a break

Finding help is important when you are a young carer to make sure you have time for yourself. Whether it’s another family member, a support carer or taking the person you care for to a short stay care or nursing home. 

When you have this time off, try to organise fun or relaxing activities that you don’t usually get to do with this time, such as playing your favourite sport, watching a film or running a warm bath. Overworking can cause mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, this is why it’s so important to get time in for yourself.

Managing stress  

With similar issues caused from overworking, stress can have just as much an effect on your mental health and your overall mood. Knowing how to manage your stress will help you in different situations, here are three ways you can find your calm in the day:

  1. Breathing exercises – let your shoulders drop, intake slow deep breaths and slow breaths out. Repeat a couple of times until you start to feel relaxed.

  2. Imagine your happy place – whether it’s a beach, woodland area or even your bedroom. Think about why you like this space, the smell of the place, the sounds and how it makes you feel to be there.

  3. Be more mindful – this will help you pay more attention to your present thoughts, feelings, and the world around you; rather than focusing on the past or future. Meditation can help you to train your mind to become more aware and have a healthier perspective.

Talking is therapy

Regularly talking to someone will help you to share your experiences and allow you to confide in someone for emotional support. It is also a great way to build relationships helping you feel a sense of belonging and self-worth.

As a carer you may find it hard to fit in meeting up with your friends or going out for a long period of time. If you have a smartphone or laptop, you can regularly video chat friends or relatives.

If you need further support about caring issues, you can call Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053.

If you're deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing or have impaired speech, you can contact the Carers Direct helpline using textphone or minicom number 0300 123 1004.

Or you can call Childline who will be able to give you advice and help, which is kept confidential, on 0800 11 11.

Social media detox

Although social media can be a great way to connect with people, it is not one way alone we build relationships. Seeing a range of images, thoughts, opinions and achievements can all be a lot to take in and it can become quite easy for us to compare ourselves to others or feel FOMO (fear of missing out). It’s important to remember that social media is a carefully chosen frame of life and not always a true representation of reality.

We can all find it hard to switch off from the online world, so at best we can try to create a more positive social media feed. Start by unfollowing any accounts that have a negative effect on you, whether it makes you feel angry, upset or annoyed.

Ask yourself ‘do I really need this app?’ Don’t feel like you need every single social media app out there. Try deleting one and see how you feel after a week. This will also help you to reduce the amount you look at social media. Aim to not use social media before bed or as soon as you wake up.

Don’t ignore bullying

Studies have shown sixty-eight percent of young carers at some point have been bullied for their caring duties. Bullying can make you feel worthless, lonely, anxious, angry and depressed.

If someone is bullying you in school or outside school, it is important that you tell someone. Whether it’s a teacher, friend, school counsellor, close relatives or youth worker who will be able to help you tackle the issue. If the bullying carries on, keep reporting it every time it happens until it stops.

This is also relevant if you are being bullied online – report the conversation or comments online or tell someone who will be able to help. Make sure you take screenshots, to have proof of the conversation. You can always block them from being able to contact you again too.

Make the most of your doctor’s appointment

If you have a few things that you need to talk to your doctor about, make a list of any symptoms or worries that you might have. Also, if you are taking any medicines add them to your list. If you want more time to talk about your problems, it’s a good idea to book a double appointment.

Say ‘no’ to drugs and alcohol

Turning to alcohol or drugs to deal with family life or problems that you are having, can have a negative impact on your mental health. It can also make you reliant on the substance to help you feel better rather than tackling the real issue.

You are also at risk of having a criminal conviction if you take illegal drugs and it’s against the law to buy alcohol if you’re under eighteen years old.

For further support you can contact FRANK who offer friendly confidential advice about drugs on 0300 123 6600.

Being a young carer can be hard at times but also very rewarding. Everything you do helps your loved one to live a happier, more accessible life.

If you know a young carer, why not try reaching out to them and let them know the amazing work that they are doing, it could just make their day.